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Hi-Rez Highway: REVIEW: McCormack DNA-2 Revision A Amplifier (SS) by dBA

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REVIEW: McCormack DNA-2 Revision A Amplifier (SS)

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Model: DNA-2 Revision A
Category: Amplifier (SS)
Suggested Retail Price: $5000 Street
Description: Stereo Amp 300 watts/channel with custom upgrade
Manufacturer URL: McCormack
Model Picture: View

Review by dBA ( A ) on February 13, 2002 at 16:52:00
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Please be aware that there are several different versions of this amp floating around, each with its own sonic characteristics. There is the basic DNA-2, the DNA-2 Deluxe and the DNA-2 LAE (Limited Anniversary Edition). The basic DNA-2 is no longer in production.

Each of these amplifiers can be upgraded to an even higher level of performance by Steve McCormack of SMcAudio. Various levels of upgrade are available. The final result is determined by the upgrade chosen (C, B, or A), not the original version of the amp. Thus, the best way to proceed is probably to find one of these amps used and then send it to Steve for an upgrade. "Used" does not matter because key components will be replaced during the upgrade and the amp will be thoroughly tested and evaluated before leaving Steve’s shop.

It has been my privilege to own a McCormack DNA-2 Revision A for two years now. I wanted to live with this amp for ample time before writing a review in order to be intimately familiar with its performance and characteristics.

For those who are looking for the ultimate amplifier for your dream system, you can stop reading right here. This is it! But if you are like me, you like reading reviews. This puts me in a difficult spot because all of the accolades for amps were worn out twenty years ago (on amps that did not deserve them!)

I have been very interested in audio for about 35 years now and have worn out the carpeting in many high-end shops. Like many readers, I have always hoped to own that dream system, and like most readers, I can not afford to buy the wrong component. As a result, I have always done a ton of research before buying anything. Then after I buy it, I continue to do research to find out if perhaps I have made a mistake.

The bottom line here is that over the years, I have heard most of the high-end amps out there, at least all of those names you are familiar with. And in all of those years, in all of those shops, I have never heard ANY amp sound as good as this DNA-2 Revision A. I am not saying this just because I own one. If the amp had let me down, I would have replaced it and would have explained why. In this case, there is just nothing to replace it with!

This amp has power to spare and is lightning fast. It can blast you with power of the trombone section of a marching band and thud your chest with a bass drum. The details of the piccolo and glockenspiel in the finale of The Stars and Stripes Forever are clearly audible amidst the cacophony. It can ferret out the nuances of Gil Shahams bow dancing to Pagannini creations or the subtlety of Sylvia McNair shaping her mouth to create specific sounds in complex passages of Messiah. Harpsichordists can be heard releasing the keys, a string can be heard breaking in an orchestra, and even the traffic outside the recording studio in an old MHS recording of the Vivaldi mandolin concertos. In the harmonica piece in Lincoln, one can clearly hear the slide on the chromatic harmonica.

Perhaps this amp's greatest quality can be described in a single word - effortlessness! One never gets the sense it is straining, regardless of the music or volume level. And it is smooth and liquid in its presentation of music.

What a beautiful combination of power in reserve in combination with that smooth, sweet quality of the best tube amps. Detail, transparency, speed, depth, delicacy, grace, compatibility, reliability, they are all here. I give this DNA-2 Revision A an unqualified recommendation. It is one of the best kept secrets in audio.

If I could think of something else to say, I would say it! My congratulations to Steve McCormack and SMcAudio for the creation of this masterpiece.

Product Weakness: Runs a tad hot.
Product Strengths: Probably the best amp in the world for home audio.

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: McCormack DNA-2 Revision A
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): McCormack TLC-1 Revision A
Sources (CDP/Turntable): SA-1
Speakers: Legacy Whispers
Cables/Interconnects: Harmonic Technology Truth Links
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Classical, Traditional Christian, Choral
Room Size (LxWxH): 56 ft. x 24 ft/ x 10.5 ft.
Time Period/Length of Audition: 2 years
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: McCormack DNA-2 Revision A Amplifier (SS) - dBA 16:52:00 02/13/02 ( 10)